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Prison chief announces 'overhaul' in care for mentally ill inmates

Mary Ellen Klas, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Friday, October 3, 2014 1:36pm

By Julie K. Brown

The Florida Department of Corrections announced on Friday a "sweeping" overhaul of the way it cares for mentally ill inmates, in the wake of intense criticism about the death of Darren Rainey. In 2012, guards at Dade Correctional Institution left the mentally ill 50-year-old in a locked, scalding hot shower for hours, allegedly to punish him for defecating in his cell and refusing to clean it up.

The incident remains under criminal investigation two years later. The department's handling of the episode - brushing off complaints by inmates and others that the incident was a homicide - has drawn harsh scrutiny.

The DOC's announcement comes after a series of investigative reports by the Miami Herald about Rainey and other suspicious prison deaths. In June, the department ordered a review of its procedures for inmates with mental illnesses, which concluded on Thursday.

In a news release, Secretary Michael Crews said the department will appoint a mental health ombudsman to focus on inmates with severe mental illnesses, expand a training program for officers on mental illness and crisis intervention, and provide specialized training for staff in inpatient units. The DOC also said it intends to create a behavioral health certification for corrections officers.

"The department is responsible for the custody of between 15 and 20 percent of its inmates having a diagnosed mental condition requiring mental health treatment," Crews said in the news release. Story here.